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Soggy greetings from the Flying T....

We are a little late with our newsletter this year. This is mostly due to the added work of wintering 100 more cows than usual and doing it during the wettest winter ever recorded in these parts. I won't get into the gory details of the endless deluge that was visited upon us except to say that for about a month the lower reaches of the Flying T were Oregon's eastern-most extension of the Pacific Ocean. Realizing a picture is worth more than a whole bunch of writing. I direct your attention to the back page and Erika's highly accurate representation of our plight.

Currently, the flood waters have receded. Now we are experiencing deep and boundless mud. This is not entirely bad. We have very deep ruts snaking their way to all important parts of the ranch. After dark our sub-freezing temperatures turn these chasms of ooze into parallel concrete trenches radiating in all directions from the house. To check the calving pasture at night, we just aim the pickup down the appropriate ruts, adjust the cruise control for 3 m.p.h.. and set our Korean alarm clock to ring in 20 minutes. This allows for some much needed sleep on the way to the first gate. Alas, a Powder River gate, bent to match the prow of our '89 Ford pickup reveals a minor flaw in this strategy; 20 minutes to us is more like 30 minutes to a Korean clock.

We have been calving heavy for a month now. Last night, while waiting for a water bag to turn into a calf, I got to thinking I've been doing this for a long time. In fact, it was 25 years ago this spring that we acquired this part of the old Klamath Indian Reservation which we named the Flying T Ranch. We began this endeavor with great expectations and the vigor of youth....and darn little else. We had the most ambitious plans for what we hoped to achieve here. It was later that I learned "If you want to make God laugh, just start making plans." I have also learned that it takes more than 25 years to build a ranch; maybe two or three lifetimes. We have, however, achieved some significant goals in our first quarter century on this project."

As our cow herd expanded from zero to way too many, we simultaneously tripled our mortgage, quadrupled our work, and changed the ink in our ledger from black to red. We managed to wear out 6 chain saws, 1 bulldozer, 5 tractors, 2 disks, a couple of balers, 7 pickups, 15 horses, 25 dogs, 112 bulls, enough cows to stretch from here to next week, and 2 people. We have used enough gasoline and diesel to float the Exxon Valdez. and enough electricity to light up Las Vegas for a week. We have packed 168,263 hand sprinkler pipes 28,112 miles and pulled the pasture harrow 17,809 miles in breaking up 892 million 304 cow pies. We helped educate 24 Animal Science intern students from 3 countries; all of whom changed their majors after a stay at the Flying T. In accomplishing all of this, we consumed 29 pigs, 16 deer, 7 old bulls, 4 broken legged heifers, 2 prolapsed cows, plus a couple more that choked in the squeeze, and a partridge in a pear tree. More important than these admittedly worthy achievements is the wealth of knowledge we have acquired in the past 25 years. What we didn't know then would fill volumes. We now know that if you are an eastern Oregon rancher...

  • you consider your grocery trip to town your semi-annual vacation.
  • there will never be any tender, grain fattened beef in your freezer; only tough, lean critters that died of natural causes.
  • you know winter has arrived when you start tripping over cow pies instead of slipping in them.
  • you leave the water running in the bathtub for six months out of the year to keep the pipes from freezing.
  • you think "six packs" means three pairs of winter boots.
  • you paint the kitchen walls mustard yellow because it doubles as the nursery during winter calving.
  • you know "meconium" isn't found next to gold on the Periodic Table of Elements.
  • the ring around your bathtub is left over from the last calf you thawed.
  • you get your pickup stuck in the snow, the mud, and the dust all in the same afternoon.
  • you celebrate the heat wave when your thermometer peaks at 32.
  • you use more baling wire on your equipment than you do on the hay crop.

Since ranching is a continuing education, we'd like to report on our most recent course of study. In light of the depressed calf prices in the fall of 1995 and in an attempt to acquire carcass data on our cattle, we decided to put some of our calves on feed. We ended up sending 50 steers, 28 late heifers, and 22 heiferettes to a feedlot in Idaho. These cattle were fed to market weight and then sold to IBP in Boise. We were paid on the rail, so we received complete carcass data including yield and grade. Of these 100 animals, one heiferette was a Yield Grade 3. All the rest graded 1 and 2. That means there was very little external fat on the carcasses and we were paid a bonus for them. Additionally, most carcasses received a Quality Grade of Choice, indicating the steaks were tender and well marbled, earning us another bonus. After 20 years of success in individual carcass competitions, it was heartening to find that we could obtain such exceptional results in a pen of 100.

As part of this comprehensive feedlot course we received an expensive education in hedging and the futures market. Anyone interested in engaging in this type of activity could save a lot of money by asking me about it first. If I can't talk you out of it I can recommend an accommodating broker who will be more than happy to take your money!

Our reputation for producing superior calving-ease bulls resulted in significantly increased sales this past year. To meet this demand, we have enlarged our cow herd to the point where we are currently producing 100 quality Salers bulls annually. These young sires are bred to produce slender, light-weight calves that grow like well-watered weeds. As a result of hybrid vigor and superior genetics, we commonly see 100 Ib. or greater increases in weaning weights when our bulls are used on English cattle. Heifers from these crosses develop into very maternal, heavy milking, calving-ease cows that will upgrade any herd.

Our gentle, range raised bulls come in black and red, and most are polled. They are fully guaranteed against defects in material and workmanship. We have semen available on our past and present herdsires. We can fill requests for any type of bull except tall ones, ornery ones, and calving-trouble ones. Our semen bulls have been used extensively on their own daughters and have proven free of any genetic defects.

Our females are in strong demand as replacements in many progressive herds around the country. We have cows and heifers available for sale at all times. We also have quite a few frozen embryos representing the best genetics of the Salers breed. Some of these are from the same flushes as many of our herdsires.

The staff around here hasn't changed since last year. Erika is still the right, left, and only hand. Her domain extends from the barn, to the horse, to the tractor, to the computer. She has started her own cow herd which she claims is akin to a vow of poverty and the dedication of her life to feeding the hungry.

Brandan is halter breaking his second 4-H steer and doing much better than last year. The pig he caught at the Lakeview Fair two falls ago is about to have her second litter. With luck we'll finally get some home grown pork around here. Susie skipped a grade in school and is now the terror of the 4th grade. She is currently in her calamity phase. I have had to sew up her head twice so far this winter. She will show a heifer in 4-H if we can find the time to pick one out.

Virginia continues to endure. She considers herself the ring master at Barnum and Bailey's Circus. If she keeps cracking the whip she may eventually get some of us jumping through the right hoops some of the time. Her chances of doing better than that seem quite remote considering the crew she has to work with out here!!

In closing, we invite you to give us a call to visit the ranch and learn why our cattle are so well suited to the western range. We enjoy showing our Salers to people who appreciate practical cattle. If we can fill any of your needs for superior seedstock, you will find us to be the largest and most competitive Salers breeder around.

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